Southern Scenic Itinerary

5-6 DAYS

970 km


  • Picturesque coastlines
  • Plentiful native wildlife
  • Fiordland National Park


Journey into the captivating lower South Island to uncover an unforgettable mix of rare wildlife, remote rugged lands, and delicious seafood. The Southern Scenic Route will take you off the beaten path to discover stunning deserted coastlines, majestic fiords and welcoming locals.

Day 1: Christchurch to Dunedin

Get up close to rare penguins
Yellow-eyed Penguin, Dunedin, Dunedin

By Penguin Place


Stunning heritage, coastlines and unique wildlife.


  • By car: Christchurch to Dunedin
  • By car: 4 h 30 min | 362 km

Recommended experiences in Dunedin

Find out more

Travel from Christchurch to Dunedin down the picturesque coastal road to start Southern Scenic Route. Spend some time in Dunedin immersed in wildlife of all kinds; New Zealand fur seals & sea lions, yellow-eyed penguins, and the only mainland royal albatross colony in the world.

Day 2: Dunedin - The Catlins - Invercargill

Dramatic coastline and playful wildlife
Nugget Point on the Catlins Coast, Clutha

By Clutha Tourism

Central Otago


Watch seals play at Nugget Point


  • By car: Dunedin - The Catlins - Invercargill
  • By car: 3 h 30 min | 264 km

Recommended experiences in Otago

Find out more

Further down the coast from Dunedin wander the 5-minute path to Nugget Point lighthouse and marvel the steep headland and rocky islets (The Nuggets). Enjoy amazing views along the coastline, visit the famous Pūrākaunui Falls, and look out for fur seals lolling about in rock pools and generally having fun.

Day 3: Invercargill

discover local southland hospitality
Stewart Island - Rakiura
Meet a weka in its natural habitat, Stewart Island - Rakiura

By Tourism New Zealand


Meet welcoming locals on Ulva Island


  • Stewart Island Rakiura
  • Fresh local seafood and beer
  • Bill Richardson Transport World

Recommended experiences in Southland

Find out more

Invercargill is a gateway to some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery and destinations including the Southland heartland, Stewart Island/Rakiura and the Ulva Island Bird Sanctuary. Take an easy ferry ride to the island sanctuary to meet unique wildlife in their native habitat. Local food specialties in Invercargill include Bluff Oysters and blue cod - they're a must try!

Day 4: Invercargill to Te Anau

Discover other-worldly landscapes
Routeburn Track, Fiordland

By Miles Holden



Soaring mountain peaks of Routeburn Track


  • By car: Invercargill to Te Anau
  • By car: 2 h | 155 km

Recommended experiences in Fiordland

Find out more

This picturesque drive skirts the eastern boundary of Fiordland National Park and the rugged south coast, providing an introduction to southern parts of Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. Visit Te Hikoi Southern Journey to learn about Riverton's bi-cultural past and stop over in Tuatapere for many points of natural and historic interest along the route, and varied opportunities for recreation – tramping, mountain biking, trout fishing, hunting, boating and caving. Arriving in the township of Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park, you will find a variety of activities such as the glowworm caves, Te Anau Bird Sanctuary and the Ata Whenua movie, plus a range of accommodation and restaurants. This is the perfect base to explore the majestic Milford and Doubtful Sounds on short walks, multi-day hikes or boat cruises.

Day 5: Te Anau to Milford Sound

Escape your everyday in majestic surrounds
Milford Sound, Fiordland

By Alistair Guthrie



Discover serene beauty of this World Heritage site


  • By car: Te Anau to Milford Sound
  • By car: 1 h 48 min | 119 km

Recommended experiences in Milford Sound

Find out more

The road to Milford is one of New Zealand’s most scenic drives, or you can relax in a coach tour and enjoy the local stories. The first part is relatively mild farmland, before you ease into beech forest near the entrance to the Fiordland National Park. Look for the Mirror Lakes, which offer amazing reflective views on a clear day. The rough hewn Homer Tunnel brings you into Milford Sound, an amazing 22km-long fiord dominated by Mitre Peak.

A cruise on Milford Sound will be an essential component of your time in Fiordland; you can choose either a day trip or an overnight cruise to really experience the beauty. Tall waterfalls, vertical rock faces and seals are some of the things you’ll remember. The underwater observatory is an option with most cruises. If you opt for a day cruise, head back to Te Anau to spend the night; it has a wide range of accommodation and restaurants on offer.

Day 6: Te Anau to Queenstown

Discover something new around every Corner
Cycling by Lake Wakatipu in autumn, Queenstown

By Miles Holden



Picturesque alpine resort town with a vibrant energy


  • By car: Milford Sound to Queenstown
  • By car: 3 h 46 min | 287 km

Recommended experiences in Queenstown

Find out more

The alpine resort of Queenstown is exciting and fantastically attractive. Nestled on the shores of the stunning Lake Wakatipu, it is the place to source almost any kind of adventure, including bungy, jet boating, horse trekking, rafting and river surfing. It’s also a destination for luxury experiences – gourmet food and award-winning vineyards to visit by bike or car, indulge in spa treatments and leisurely games of golf.

View the journey

Start planning your trip to New Zealand

Plan your Southern Scenic journey

Book South Island Southern Scenic holiday →

Southern Scenic Journey Must-Dos →

South Island Journeys →